Life Abroad Part 2
Second blog post by Jen McPherson about studying abroad in Florence. (November 6, 2018)
These past two weeks I have had the pleasure of visiting multiple cities in various countries. Being able to jet off to another country every weekend is one of the best things about studying abroad in Florence for a semester. Luckily, Florence is a short distance from most places one would want to visit. During our study abroad semester, we have a fall break. During this time, we are given 10 days off and most use this time to do lots of traveling.
My first stop of fall break was Berlin, Germany. I had already been to Munich, so I assumed that it would be very similar. I was wrong. Berlin definitely had its own feel to it. Similar to Munich, we used the subway to get from place to place. We went on a walking tour once we arrived. We stopped at Republic Square, which was the first time I had seen grass in quite awhile. Next, we walked through the city center and saw various churches and buildings, all of which had wonderful architecture. After doing lots of walking, our tour guide brought us to his favorite burger place, which he claimed had one of the best burgers he’s ever eaten. After trying one myself, I had to agree.
The next day we traveled to the Berlin Wall. I was not picturing there to be so much of it still standing. I was also shocked by the beautiful paintings that covered the remaining portion of the wall. Each section had a different theme and a different message. You could easily spend hours looking at all of the works. Following the wall, we took a train to Oranienburg to visit the concentration camp, Sachsenhausen. It was a powerful experience and something I feel everyone should see at least once in their lives. Our next stop was Amsterdam.
I had already traveled to Amsterdam during my sophomore year of high school, but I was very excited to go again. Amsterdam is by far one of my favorite cities. The Anne Frank house was beyond powerful and something I would highly recommend to anyone traveling there. In addition, the Heineken factory tour far exceeded my expectations. We were able to not only learn about the history of the brewing company but also about how they make their beer. We even got to taste test the different steps before they turned it into alcohol and then taste test the beer itself.
I would also recommend taking a boat cruise either during the day or at night. It’s a fun way to see more of the city. Amsterdam itself is just breathtaking. There are little bridges everywhere with colorful flowers and bikes locked to them. Another attraction that is definitely for tourists is the Amsterdam IceBar. This was another favorite of mine because the glasses you drank out of were pure ice. It was important not to drop them because otherwise, they would break. You were given gloves and a jacket, but it was still quite cold so dressing warm was important. Everything was nice, from the bar to the tables to the chairs. After Amsterdam, we headed to Paris, France.
Again, I had already traveled to Paris on the previous trip that I mentioned earlier, but who doesn’t want to see Paris again? The city is breathtaking. Of course, we went to the Eiffel Tower. This time, I was lucky enough to walk through the park behind it and truly get to see it up close. It’s amazing how large it is. Pictures just don’t do it justice. It is even more incredible at night when they light it up. We also walked to Notre Dame. I highly recommend taking a few minutes and walking inside. The church is beautiful on the outside and it is even prettier on the inside.
Along the way, we stopped at beautiful cafes and ate delicious bread and had cups of coffee. We could not leave Paris without stopping at the famous Laduree for macaroons. Sadly, I have a nut allergy and cannot eat them, but from the looks on my friends’ faces, they seemed to really enjoy them. The following day, we traveled to the Louvre. I enjoyed walking through the museum moreso this time because I actually recognized a number of pieces from my art history class. This is a huge benefit of studying abroad. It is one thing to see a picture in a classroom, It is another to actually see the piece for yourself in person. Our last stop on our fall break trip was Barcelona, Spain.
Unlike the other countries, I had never been to Spain. When we arrived it was sunny and warm. It was a nice change of pace to be able to walk around without sweaters and jackets on. We walked around for a few hours ourselves. We saw the center of the city, Park Guell, and Sagrada Familia. All places I would highly recommend seeing in Barcelona. I ate at a delicious brunch place called Brunch & Cake that had beautiful plates of healthy food options. The next day we headed to the beach and enjoyed eating at a great restaurant right on the sand. It was such a treat to be able to eat outside and look out at the water. Barcelona was definitely different compared to Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris. All of which, I felt like, had a similar city feel and weather.
Overall, I am beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to these four amazing cities. Some again, and others for the first time. Each one was unique and had delicious food and drinks. You could never find yourself bored in any of these cities. There is always something to do. I would highly recommend any one of these cities.
Following my fall break trip, I was lucky enough to travel to Corfu, Greece for the long weekend. Corfu, like Barcelona, was warm. The sunsets in Corfu were absolutely stunning. In addition, the food was delicious. I tried my first Greek salad and my first Gyro. It’s safe to say I will be eating a lot more Greek food when I return to the States. And since I seem to always be busy abroad, my Mom is arriving tomorrow and visiting for a week. We are traveling to Siena, Italy this coming weekend. I am very excited to see her since it has been so long. I cannot wait to show her around Florence during the week and take her to all of my favorite spots. I am sure she is going to love it here.